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Okajima happy to bide his time in Minors

PHOENIX -- The A's are soon likely to set their roster without Hideki Okajima's name on it, but the veteran reliever says he's fine with continuing his career in the Minors while waiting for a chance to pitch in Oakland.

"I'm completely fine with it," Okajima said Sunday. "I signed a Minor League contract, and I'm just happy to be pitching in America again, no matter where it is."

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For three straight days Okajima appeared on the A's pitching list, but never got into a game. Finally, on Sunday, he was brought in for the seventh inning, and he stranded two on base, his ERA lowered to 5.19 by day's end.

Okajima has been spotty this spring, and he essentially needed to be perfect to have any chance of grabbing hold of a roster spot. He's one of 13 relievers vying for seven bullpen openings, three of which are already guaranteed to Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle. The others are likely to go to the four relievers out of options: Jerry Blevins, Chris Resop, Pat Neshek and Travis Blackley.

This marks Okajima's first spring in Arizona, and it's presented quite the learning curve for the veteran.

"It's been tough," he said through a translator. "Compared to Florida, it's so dry, and the ball flies a lot farther here. I'm quite surprised at the difference. It's a good place to gain experience.

"I'm happy with the improvements I've made. … If the season started tomorrow, I would be ready."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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